Tag Archives: Conflict

Want to have a super weekend in Banda Aceh?! Here’s how!

It was a busy weekend in Banda Aceh this weekend. And like the best weekends it lasted for three days. Sunday was Indonesian Independence Day so a public holiday was observed on Monday.

Friday was the 3rd anniversary of the cessation of conflict between the Government of Indonesia and the Free Aceh Movement. There were public events all day and I quickly dropped in on one in the afternoon to see one of our NGO partners perform (they have a band). All I found was the Deputy Governor giving a ratherlong speech…and a sign telling me where I could stand.

Pria (men) to the left and wanita (women) to the right. Sex segregation in the middle of the day? Really? When I first saw the sign I hoped it was directions to the bathroom…

Later that night at the same location there was a concert with the very popular and very awesome Acehnese performer, Rafly. The segregation plan failed and there were boys and girls sitting wherever they felt like it. Standing was strictly forbidden though. I guess it might have led to…dancing! Gasp! Rafly really knows how to rock your socks off so it was a killer to remain seated when the music was telling you to shake your bootie. Occasionally some boys lost control and jumped up to dance…but they were very quickly reminded by crowd control to sit down (crowd control=military so you actually have to listen to them).

On Sunday, Independence Day, there were all kinds of festivities around town, including panjat pinang where groups of men from the local area climb a slippery pole to grab the loot at the top (the loot consisted of electrical appliances at the one we saw). A few of us headed to a local park to watch as groups of men tried with varying levels of success to reach the top of the pole. There were two poles, each was smeared in grease and was the height of maybe 6 or 7 men.

Here are some men at the base of one of the poles.

This group have almost made it to the top.

And this guy was the first to reach the top.

He proceeded to detach the boxes and throw them down to the ground. Fortunately the boxes were symbolic. The appliances had been removed before being attached to the pole. A friend of mine saw one of these competitions in which the victor threw down a blender from the top of the pole and it smashed.

On Monday a few of us decided to go for a walk to the secret secret beach. I call it the secret secret beach to distinguish it from the regular secret beach, which is not a secret at all because everyone knows where it is and it’s easy to get there. The secret secret beach actually deserves its name….we walked for a few hours and couldn’t find it.

Here is the wholesome hiking troupe making our way along the track. At this point we were pretty sure we were on the right track because our GPS told us so (that’s right…we even had a GPS and we still didn’t make it!)

We continued along the track but eventually arrived at a cliff that was very clearly a dead end. Fortunately this was the view at the dead end:

Can’t be too sad about finding a view like that.

At this point we were low on drinking water and it was very hot, so like sensible little hikers we turned back. We had received some guidance (relating to both navigation and life) along the way from an old man who stayed in a hut along the track. On our way back we stopped in at the hut for a chat. He was deaf so our communication was limited, but he did give us some life lessons (because what else is an old man in the forest going to do?)

Life lessons from the old man.
1. get married
2. have babies
3. getting married and having babies is good
4. Hedgehog is tasty and good for virility

I was pretty much ready to sign up for marriage and babies by the end of the hike.

Here, Simone and Marcus are sitting in the man’s hut.

Here, Cat is talking to the old man.

A little further on from the old man’s house is a natural well he collects water from. It’s salty so you can’t drink it but it’s perfect for pouring over your head, as demonstrated so beautifully by Simone.

After making it out of the forest we stopped in at the easy-to-find-secret-beach for a quick swim and then headed to Joel’s for drinks and pizza. Marcus ordered our drinks while Simone and I used the showers.

We came back to the table to find (each):
1 big bottle of water
1 pocari sweat (isotonic drink)
1 coke
1 pineapple juice

We were pretty thirsty.

This weekend was probably as good as they get… I reflected on this as I had a hot shower (it was truly glorious) at Marcus, Simone and Cat’s place after returning from the beach. How can you beat that?

Aceh conflict is old news

I just stumbled across an old article from The Age a year and a half before the tsunami at a time of renewed fighting between the Indonesian military and GAM (June 2003). Check out the great picture.

It’s always interesting to try to imagine this now mostly peaceful place just five years ago. All the evidence and the stories should make it easy, but it’s not. Reading a newspaper story is a bit different. I can’t really articulate why though. I guess that’s the beauty of a newspaper.

Can I remember reading articles like this in 2003? I have a vague recollection but not really. Perhaps if I’d known what my future held I would have paid a little more attention.

Read the article here: Aceh Media Plan in Chaos

If you haven’t signed already

Another shout out to sign the petition saying no to violence against women. It’s super quick to sign.


The more signatures collected worldwide the stronger our advocacy to bring more attention to this v.v. serious issue (that has far broader ramifications for peace and security and development goals than most of us realise).

You can read more about violence against women here.

P.S. K-Rudd told me the other day that he’d signed it already. Good boy, Prime Minister.

What a busy day!

It has been a BUSY day. It all started with an emergency run to the doctor when my housemate slipped and NEARLY DIED, but actually just cut her head a little bit. Obviously I had to sit with her for a while to see if she was OK, so made it into the office shortly after lunch.

After checking emails and looking at photos of Liam and Oliver (WITHOUT tubes thank you very much) it was time to visit my favourite NGO in Aceh and take some new interns with me. We interviewed the head of the NGO who has a fascinating story and made us all kinds of excited and then we planned ways to get our bosses to let us go on a road trip to find out more about female ex-combatants. Didn’t cross much off my “must to before I go to Australia” list, and added more events preparing for the PM’s visit on Saturday to my overstocked calendar.

Now I will go home freakishly early (it’s not even 6pm yet) because I have to check on my ailing housemate…obviously.

Al Jazeera report on Aceh

Just a short piece on reintegration of ex-combatants in Aceh.